Article: Shifting perceptions – In search of the real Sahara

We laugh a lot in the Sahara.
The environment may be hard and brutal… but the behaviour is sweet.

Sometimes a trip can work out differently to the one you planned and dreamed about.  

That is what photographer Arnaud Contreras found.  Contreras had been travelling through Libya, Algeria, Mali, Niger and Western Sahara with a plan to study their cultures.  However, when he arrived in Timbuktu, what he found inspired him to change his approach.


In this article from the great Huck magazine, Contreras tells the story of how the sight of teenagers in Timbuktu swapping music videos made him rethink his plans.  Abandoning the traditional narrative for reporting on Africa, Contreras instead photographed communities in the Sahara that were embracing modernity and mobile technology.

A fascinating glimpse of the side of life in the Sahara that is normally sidelined by the mainstream media which prefers stories about terrorism and poverty, Contreras focuses on the story of a desert that embraces rock music and is forging an identity under the desert sun that defies the normal stereotypes.  Travel and reporting as it should be, Contreras’ photos are a tonic. 

More of Contreras’ photos from his book Sahara Rocks! along with his other work can be seen on his website at

On the theme of shifting perceptions, this photo essay complements another story from Huck about the project Everyday Africa, a network of photographers who contribute to the an Instagram feed to represent a more balanced view of Africa away from the traditional images of war and famine: 


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